Worth Its Weight: MagCloud

A few months ago I wrote a post about Ponoko, a service which allows you to create and sell custom laser-cut products on demand.  Today I was introduced to yet another interesting on-demand service: MagCloud.  MagCloud allows you to publish magazines on demand, at a cost of $0.20 per page.  They handle all the printing, binding, subscriptions and distribution, so you can focus on the creative work of putting the publication together.  Even better: while they are still in Beta mode, publisher proofs are free (excluding shipping).  All you have to do is upload a hi-res pdf.

Like other on-demand production services, MagCloud isn’t cheap.  An issue of Craft would cost $30 to produce this way — twice the normal cover price and significantly higher than the cost of a subscription.  But without advertisers to satisfy, magazines published on-demand can be a lot more streamlined about their content, which can help cut down on costs.  Have you ever noticed, for example,  how many magazines these days have more than one product review section?  Craft and ReadyMade have at least three apiece (tools, kits, books, music, etc.).  I recently learned from someone in the industry that these reviews exist primarily to lure advertisers.  Companies that advertise get first dibs on submitting products for review, thus gaining free publicity alongside their paid advertisements.

As a new service, (they’ve only been around since July), MagCloud is still somewhat limited in its parameters. Shipping is currently only available in the U.S., U.K. and Canada, and there is only one page size available (US letter, trimmed down to 8.25” x 10.75”).  They are also conspicuously missing an FAQ page.  To get all the specifics you need to look at their front page, their blog and the help section.

Still, with most of my favorite publications out of print or on the verge of total blogdom, I’m happy to see that there is hope of filling the void.  I can’t wait to see what innovations occur in publishing now that anyone can run a magazine.

Tip: You can use MagCloud publications as textbooks, catalogs and portfolios, too! At $0.20 cents a page, it’s a lot cheaper than making color copies.

The Death of Craft?

All of my favorite crafty/handmade things are moving online.  First, the Stitch Lounge closed up shop.  Then, Whizbang Fabrics shut its doors.  Today, Craft Magazine announced it will no longer be printing.  What gives?  Around the holidays all I kept hearing was that the craft market was growing, as people started making rather than buying things to save money.  Anecdotally, here in the Bay Area this does not seem to be the case.  All sorts of crafty ventures seem to be eliminating overhead and staff as they rush to move online.

Though I have never run a fabric store, a sewing studio, or a magazine, this seems to be a mistake.  The essence of craft is that’s it’s tactile.  How can you shop for fabric online, where you can’t feel the weight or the texture, and the colors aren’t accurate? Not to mention it’s simply not as inspiring to “browse” online as it is to be completely surrounded by a rainbow of physical materials.  Online tutorials are no substitute for a live, in-person instructor, and I won’t read anything digital in bed, in the bathroom or at the beach.

For me as a diehard craft consumer, moving exclusively online basically ensures your crafty business that I will no longer be a customer.  I might still visit occasionally, (if a favorite blog happens to mention something interesting about it, for example) but if a new, physical rival opens up, my alliance instantly switches.  I don’t know how many people feel the same way I do, but if it’s significant enough, moving online might just deal your company’s death blow, despite saving money in the short-term.

In the end, if going online is the only solution you can think of in a bad economy, maybe you don’t deserve to be in business anyway.  At least not in a creative business, because going web-only is perhaps the least creative solution I can think of.